You can trace the liberalizing contours of the American public’s relationship to drugs by way of the last few presidents’ consumption habits. Clinton famously didn’t inhale, only willing to admit to touching reefer in England. Before his religious reawakening at forty, Bush the younger by all accounts led a wild life. While author J.H. Hatfield’s claim in Fortunate Son, his 1999 presidential biography, that Bush had been arrested for cocaine use was met with skepticism—the book would be withdrawn by St. Martin’s Press upon reports that Hatfield had served prison time for hiring a hitman—polling at the time also suggested that people cared little if Dubya partook.

His successor simply admitted to both pot and blow in a memoir, with little mainstream political backlash, though cocaine use is one of many real and imagined facts about Obama that feed right-wing conspiracies to this day. Afterward, Trump’s reign demonstrated the broadening of our nation’s pharmaceutical lens, as well as its darkening. White House doctors freely dispensed ziplocks of Ambien and Provigil in the executive offices as Trump would go on to hock hydroxychloroquine (and bleach) as Covid prophylactics. Hunter Biden’s crack use seems to bother people less than his being on the board of a Ukrainian energy company; if his father is on a cocktail of performance enhancers, as some allege, what truly rankles is not Biden’s possible Adderall usage but his advanced age.

That’s not to say that drugs have definitively triumphed in the war on drugs, though the gradual mainstreaming of drug-assisted therapy does signal a certain kind of victory. Here, in “Altered States,” John Semley writes on the growing acceptance and commodification of MDMA, championed now for its psychic amelioration by veterans and ravers alike. Dan Piepenbring finds antecedents for the current vogue for ketamine clinics in the nineteenth-century “Anaesthetic Revelation” fueled by nitrous oxide and ether, whose users struggled to preserve the overwhelming wisdom fully available only during a fleeting high. That drugs can mean both so much and so little is Dylan Levi King’s takeaway from his survey of synthetic drug use by hobbyists in contemporary China.

The dankly organic is now recreationally legal in twenty-four states. Ariel Fisher tours retirees wild for marijuana in their golden years, while Baynard Woods examines labor abuse in the growing cannabis industry. We’ve come far, then, from the 1980s heyday of antidrug propaganda chronicled by J.W. McCormack, when McGruff the Crime Dog might warn that a single puff could send you straight to the hard stuff.

Still, many myths persist. This issue attempts to puncture a few: Zachary Siegel questions the “epidemic” framing of the opioid crisis. Ann Neumann argues that we continually demonize those seeking to minimize physical pain through the poppy plant’s derivatives, and Donald Morrison details how Oregon never really gave drug decriminalization a fighting chance. As Edward Ongweso Jr. and Athena Sofides write, patent “evergreening” allows insulin prices to soar year-after-year, despite Big Pharma’s lack of actual innovation in hormone production. Oswaldo Zavala lampoons claims that Hamas and Mexican cartels bonded over the fine art of tunnel building, the sort of political pipe dream it’s easy to imagine leaving the cosmetically plumped lips of former congressman George Santos like, as Dale Peck describes, so many other lies—the largest one, perhaps too easily believed by even his skeptics, being that Santos is uniquely duplicitous in a nation trashed in more ways than one.